Tuesday, 9 March 2010

It feels like winters nearly over in North Wales, so with the thought that it might be the last chance this season, I took the day off work and headed in to the Black Ladders.
Dropping the kids off at school meant it was 10.30 by the time I started the walk in, but the path was clear of snow and the weather was perfect, so although I had a heavy pack, I was able to make good time and reached the crag at 11.45.
The plan for the day was to back rope solo something, maybe the second ascent of Tora Bora, a new VIII 8 but was I up to it? Standing under the crag I had my doubts, the face loomed over me, everything looking vertical or overhanging.
I emptied the pack.
One 70m single rope.
One rack of gear.
No extenders.
No pegs or turf protection.
In the bottom of the pack a half rope left in from the weekend! No wonder it felt heavy!
So what to do?
Tora Bora was out of the question, with no pegs or turf pro. Anyway I might as well admit, I would probably of bottled it on my own. The excuses were already piling up, too late to start, didn't look in nick, and anything else I could think of.
I decided to go for Gallipoli, a two star V5 that went in the same area and wouldn't be too difficult.
Traversing in from the right I moved up to the base of an ice fall and got the rope out.
I would attach myself to it and trail it behind, just belaying the tricky bits as I needed to.
The ice fall was actually quite steep and seemed to be delaminating at the top, where every axe swing hit rock or useless reed grass. Cautiously I moved up to reach a peg belay and a traverse left. The route starts to feel quite exposed here but I didn't want to use the rope until I reached the gully proper, as its not easy rapping a traverse.
At a large pinnacle I set up a belay and back roped one long pitch that took me into the gully, with some good moves up a steeper section, to the next belay. Then I set up the ab and rapped back down, taking out the gear and dismantling the lower belay before reascending.
This was repeated for one more pitch before reaching easy ground and the top, on a stunning day.
The route length is given as 250m, adding on the pitches I climbed twice, makes 370m. It took me two and a half hours to climb at a steady pace, then back to the car by 2.45 giving a round trip of just under five hours, not bad for a trip to the Ladders.
So if this was my last route of the season, although it wasnt hard, the feeling of independence and complete self reliance you get with back roping something like this, on a big cliff, made it a memorable day.
Now all I need is a week in the alps as the icing on the cake!

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